He’d married three times, had mistresses and children and an interesting job where he’d been a success, but now eluding death seemed to have become the central business of his life and bodily decay his entire story.

This passage comes from early in section 12, when the everyman began to be hospitalized every year. There is a sense that he feels under siege by the forces of ill health, unable to defy sickness through the warding of his rich, interesting life or by the examples of his family. He once again sets himself within a familial context, comparing his poor health to the long lives of his parents and his very healthy older brother Howie. In the section immediately before this, the everyman had talked of enduring his surgeries and had avoided drawing too much attention to his suffering, failing to tell Nancy or Howie, his most frequent supporters during his recovery periods, anything about his carotid operation. However, having seen himself through this surgery without family present, the everyman is brought to tears by the shock of his suffering. Isolation has only made the experience worse. Even with his stoic philosophy to tell him he must simply bear it, he cannot.

The novel takes place after the everyman has died, so when he says “eluding death” has become his main occupation and “bodily decay his entire story,” the reader is aware of a dramatic irony that is not entirely beyond the protagonist’s knowledge. The reader knows that the everyman will die unexpectedly and before his older brother. The everyman, too, knows that he will die eventually as all living things do, but is unaware of how soon his death approaches. His struggle with his own failing body is undercut by the fact that it is a struggle already lost by the time the novel opens. In a way though, what he says is utterly true, in that the entire story of Everyman is concerned not only with the memories of his life from childhood, of his relationships, of his career, but also the progression through his surgeries, his periods of recovery, and the deaths of those around him and ultimately himself.